Chapel Hill

This ship must have been light on ballast or something because it bobbed around like a cork and some guys were sick for most of the voyage.

I was fortunate to have recovered after the initial episode and had no more problems.

Playing cards and gambling had taught me a few lessons, so before we got on the ship I gave most of the cash I had to a trusted buddy with the agreement that he would not under any circumstances give it back to me until we got off the ship. I don't recall how many days went by, not many, before I was hounding him to give me just a couple of my dollars to see if I couldn't recoup and continue playing. Fortunately he was as strong as I was weak and I had some money left when we got to the USA. There was lots of gambling on the ship and one guy with ingenuity and foresight had embarked with a full canvas roulette outfit and wheel and I would guess made a fortune to start out with as a civilian.

We were on the ship Christmas and New Years and the crewmembers, entrepreneurial types, were doing a tremendous volume of business selling half-pints of Four Roses whiskey for $5 or more per flask. With no money left to gamble, and time hanging heavy we read and played cards for fun but there was still little to do. I did go to church service at Christmas and have the bulletin that was issued for the service on the ship.

Come New Years for lack of much to do, no money for booze etc., another guy and I answered a call for volunteers to help out in the ship's bakery. We went there and found out why the need for volunteers. Apparently the crewmembers were starting New Year celebrations early and there were few workers present and the number dwindled rapidly. Soon there was just one baker and we few volunteers left.

The baker was a large tattooed merchant marine baker who was drunk as a skunk and was singing "I want to be a cowboy's sweetheart" as he kneaded and punched a duffel bag sized glob of biscuit dough on a small table. Periodically the punching and kneading would get too vigorous and the dough would wind up on the deck. He would pick it up, dust it off with some flour and work on it some more. Finally he became drunk enough to quit, crawled into one of the large ovens and went to sleep. We volunteers took over and in one way or another produced biscuits for the section we were in for New Years morning breakfast. One of the oddest New Years Eve's I have ever spent.

When the Chapel Hill docked at Newport News, Virginia. I was still worried that someone would discover my deficit of 5 discharge points, but I was extremely pleased that I had at least gotten back to the good old USA and it seemed doubtful to me that anyone would bother sending me back overseas to either Europe or the Pacific.

The "Ruptured Duck" was issued to service personnel about to leave the military with an Honorable Discharge. It authorized them to wear their the uniform up to thirty days after discharge as there was a clothing shortage. The Military Police understood that this insignia indicated personnel in transit, not absent without leave. The eagle, it was thought, looked more like a duck; as it indicated leaving the service the saying: "They took off like a Ruptured Duck" became popular.

We were treated rather well as returning warriors and one of the first things was a trip to a mess hall with real American Food. The steaks were good, but what I and I am sure others liked most was the presence of salads We never had them except for some coleslaw now and then. I remember I picked up a quarter of a head of lettuce, covered it with dressing and downed it quickly and went back for more.

We didn't spend any appreciable time at Newport News and entrained for Ft Devins Mass. The train naturally had to pass right through Milford, Connecticut and what a great sight it was to see my hometown but what a cruel experience it was to not be able to jump off and see those that I had been missing for so many months, about 14 as I recall. We were processed pretty quickly at Ft. Devins and it was not until I was handed my papers that I discovered that a battle star that I was not aware of was on my record and gave me the proper number of points needed for discharge.

Along with the discharge we received a paper giving specifics on our Military Classification, training completed etc. The poor guy who tried to compose mine had a very hard time. As a rifleman, infantry, Pfc. he had to write that I was qualified to shoot a rifle, machine gun and use grenades to dispatch enemy personnel and the final paper might have gotten me a job at Murder, Inc. but was never of any use in getting a civilian job. I'm not sure if I still have that paper but it was always a pretty funny joke to me. Needless to say I lost no time in getting on the train in Mass. and getting home as quickly as possible.

If I have written here seems to have much too much emphasis on trivia remember that an 18-20 year old Private in the Infantry did not have earth shattering experiences or many deep thoughts about world conditions and military strategy.

Memories both positive and negative have been coming back regularly. It was a 'one day at a time' experience for me with simple points of importance. For weeks at a time, the greatest desire was to sleep under a roof and have bathing facilities. Once that came about, the desire was to get home and not go to the Pacific.

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